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Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2017)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Inland sub-sector
    • Aquaculture sub-sector
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
    • Employment
    • Rural development
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
      • Education and training
    • Foreign aid
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
  7. Annexes
  8. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country briefPrepared: June, 2018.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has a population of 8.1 million in 2016, a land area of 462 243 km2, a coastline of 17 000 km and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 3.12 million km2. Fisheries contribution to GDP in 2014 was estimated as USD 16.85 billion, representing 1.7% of total. Fish export value in 2016 was estimated at USD 197 million dominated by tuna products and import at USD 46.5 million. Annual per capita consumption was 17.5 kg in 2013.

Total capture fishery production in 2016 was about 309 000 tonnes, with tuna catches representing about 94 percent. Inland capture production was estimated at 13 500 tonnes. There were also foreign vessels operating within the PNG’s EEZ. Commercial shrimp-trawling operations take place in the Gulf of Papua and other parts of southern PNG. The small-scale fisheries of PNG reflect the diversity of the country’s coastal environments. Along the mainland and high island coasts and in the smaller island communities fishing activities include the harvesting of the reef flats, spear fishing, shallow-water hand-lining from dugout canoes, netting, and trapping in the freshwater reaches of large rivers. In the swampy lowland areas net fisheries for barramundi, catfish, and sharks occur, while in the Gulf of Papua and parts of the northern islands region, there are also village-based lobster fisheries. The collection of invertebrates, both commercially (bêche-de-mer, trochus and other shells), and for subsistence purposes, is extensive and may exceed finfish harvesting.

Freshwater aquaculture has been promoted in PNG since 1954. Attempts which have been made include culture of common carp, eels, catfish, gourami, perch, tilapia and trout. The Highlands Aquaculture Development Centre in Ayura, Eastern Highland Province, became a nationally important centre for producing common carp seeds for distribution to farmers, while rainbow trout seeds were produced and supplied to farmers by the private sector. The centre also served as quarantine facility. Mariculture trials include the farming of seaweed, giant clams, barramundi, milkfish, mullet, mussels, oysters and giant tiger prawn. Crocodiles are cultured in PNG and there is one of the world largest crocodile farms in Lae. About 2 200 tonnes of farmed fishes were produced in 2016, dominated by tilapia and common carp grown from earthen ponds.

Marine catches are dominated by the tuna fisheries, primarily longline and purse seine. Estimates of catches from the coastal fisheries vary widely.

PNG is a signatory to the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and central Pacific Ocean and the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). PNG is also a party to a number of treaties and agreements relating to the management of regional fisheries as follows.
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - General Geographic and Economic Data – Papua New Guinea

Shelf area:

186 819 km²

Sea Around US:


Length of continental coastline: 5 152km

World by Map

Fisheries GDP (2014): 1.7 National GDP

Gillet, 20161

(1) Gillett, R. D. Fisheries in the Economies of Pacific Island Countries and Territories. Pacific Community (SPC), 2016.*Value converted by FAO as per UN currency exchange rate

Key statistics

Country area462 840km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Land area452 860km2FAOSTAT. Expert sources from FAO (including other divisions), 2013
Inland water area9 980km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.8.132millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2018
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area2 409 920km2VLIZ

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsTable 2 in this section is based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2017. The charts are based on the same source but these are automatically updated every year with the most recent statistics.

Table 2 — FAO fisheries statistics - Papua New Guinea

      1980 1990 2000 2010 2014 2015 2016
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 2.51 10.40
  Capture 2.51 10.40
    Marine 2.51 10.40
FLEET(thousands vessels) 0.62
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics
1) Due to roundings total may not sum up

Please Note:Fishery statistical data here presented exclude the production for marine mammals, crocodiles, corals, sponges, pearls, mother-of-pearl and aquatic plants.


Updated 2017Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sector

Papua New Guinea (PNG) comprises the eastern part of the large island of New Guinea, and the islands of New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville and Manus plus many smaller ones. PNG is by far the largest Pacific Island country in both size and population. Its land mass covers a little over 462 000 km² and it has a population of about 7 million. PNG has a diverse range of environments, from the highland and its mountainous cordillera to the lowland rainforests, savannahs, swamps and mangrove forests of the coastal areas, out to the many islands, atolls and extensive fringing and barrier coral reefs. The total length of PNG’s coastline has been estimated to be approximately 17 110 km, with an estimated 40 000 km² of coral reefs. PNG’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) covers about 3 120 000 km2, with maritime borders with Australia, the Solomon Islands, Palau and Indonesia (SPC, 2013).

Fisheries statistics can be presented in different forms to cater for different purposes. In the PNG statistics published by FAO (Part 1 of this profile), the presentation follows the international conventions and standards used by FAO and its Member States for reporting catches, which are given by the flag of the catching vessel. Accordingly, the fishery and aquaculture production of PNG in 2014 published by FAO (Part 1) was 259 050 tonnes.

In Table 3 below, the PNG fishery production statistics include the catch by PNG-flagged vessels, the catch by small boats operated by nationals and the catch from fishing activities that do not involve a vessel (e.g. reef gleaning). The offshore category in the table is defined as the catch from PNG-flagged, industrial-scale fishing operations that are carried out anywhere in the western and central Pacific Ocean (i.e. inside or outside PNG waters1).

Table 3: PNG fisheries production in 2014 (as per FAO reporting standards)






PNG-flagged offshore
Volume (tonnes) 145 tonnes and 160 000 pieces8 6426 50035 00054 771



1 228 288 38 132 29650 583 658 66 731 518n/a
Units: tonnes unless otherwise stated

The amounts of production given in the above table differ from those shown in Part 1. The table gives production estimated from a variety of sources (see SPC study below), whereas the quantities reported in Part 1 are generally what is reported to FAO by the PNG National Fisheries Authority (NFA). The major difference between the amounts in the above table and those in Part 1 is in the category “PNG-flagged offshore”. The amount listed in Table 3 for this category is from NFA’s official report (NFA, 2015) to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

A recent study by the Pacific Community (SPC) presents the fishery statistics of PNG in a different way from that of FAO. The SPC study reports the amount of catch in PNG fishery waters, regardless of vessel flag. In the study, the catches are placed in different categories, which is useful for other purposes, such as administration of the foreign fishing that occurs in the fishery waters of PNG. A summary of PNG fishery production from the SPC study is given in Table 4 below.

Table 4: Fisheries production in PNG waters











     Both PNG- and foreign- flagged vessels
Volume (tonnes) 145 tonnes and 160 000 pieces8 6426 50035 000216 896217 871
Value (USD) 1 228 288 38 132 29650 583 658 66 731 518312 719 079311 048 127
Source: Gillett (2016)

Some comment is required to explain the difference between the information in this table and that in Part 1 of this profile:

  • Catches can be given by the flag of the catching vessel (as in the FAO statistics in Part 1), or by the zone where the catch is made (the “offshore foreign-based” and “offshore locally based” columns in the table above). These two different ways of allocating catches each have their purposes. Attribution by flag is important for consistency with international conventions, while attribution by zone is important for determining fishing contributions to GDP, and managing revenue from license fees for foreign fishing in a country’s zone.
  • In PNG, there is no fisheries statistical system covering the categories of aquaculture, freshwater, and coastal subsistence/commercial fishing. The estimates above were made by a study carried out by SPC in 2015 that examined a large number of fishery and economic studies covering the last two decades.
  • It is likely that the FAO data for the category “PNG-flagged” includes some of the catch (but not all) of the locally based, foreign-flagged vessels. According to NFA (2015), the 2014 catch for locally based, foreign-flagged vessels in the WCPFC convention area was 160 433.05 tonnes.

(1) In this report, the term “PNG waters” comprises the internal waters, the territorial sea and the EEZ as described in the National Seas Act 1977.(2) In the SPC study, “offshore locally based” is the catch in PNG waters from industrial-scale, tuna fishing operations that are (a) based at a port in PNG, and (b) generally harvested more than 12 nautical miles offshore.(3) “Offshore foreign-based” is the catch in the PNG zone from industrial-scale tuna fishing operations that are based at ports outside PNG. Under the international standardized System of National Accounts (SNA, 2009), those catches do not contribute to the GDP of PNG.Marine sub-sector

Catch profile

The marine fisheries have two very distinct components, offshore and coastal:

  • The PNG offshore fishery is made up of both the purse-seine and longline sectors with a small handline sector. The longline and handline vessels fish exclusively in PNG waters. The purse-seine sector is a mix of both domestic and foreign access vessels. The domestic sector comprises PNG-flagged vessels and PNG chartered vessels (locally based foreign) that support processing facilities onshore in PNG (NFA, 2016).
  • Coastal fishing is primarily carried out for subsistence purposes and for sales in local markets. In addition, there are some export-oriented coastal fisheries: beche-de-mer, lobster and trochus.
The purse-seine catch by PNG-based vessels is given in Table 5. The purse-seine catch in PNG waters by foreign-based vessels has averaged about 275 000 tonnes in recent years. The most dominant trend in purse seining is that in El Niño years, the catch in PNG waters tends to fall as areas favorable for purse seining move to the east (i.e. towards the Kiribati zone). Foreign-based purse seining in PNG waters has been declining in recent years, with the 2015 catch about 10 percent of the 2011 catch.

Table 5: Purse-seine effort and catch by locally based vessels





(Fishing days)

Catch (tonnes)
   PNG watersOutside PNG


PNG flag

1 79026 8700


8 772122 31649 573


PNG flag

2 37045 973113


7 332114 53378 591


PNG flag

2 05836 9611 459


7 770114 52074 122


PNG flag

2 15044 17210 599


6 40363 78996 644


PNG flag

3 14325 26770 367


3 24337 81571 068


(PNG flag plus chartered)

9 006126 44390 507
Source: NFA (2016)

The recent longline catch and effort in PNG waters is given in Table 6. There is considerable variation in both the effort and catch in recent years, with no discernible trends.

Table 6: PNG-based longline effort and catch

Effort (100 hooks)68 03371 67530 13816 16335 19044 240
Catch (tonnes)2 7623 1551 4381 0691 9192 068
Source: NFA (2016)

Coastal fishing activities include the harvesting of reef flats, spearfishing, shallow-water handlining from dugout canoes, netting, and trapping in the freshwater reaches of the larger rivers. In the swampy lowland areas, there are net fisheries for barramundi, catfish and sharks, while in the Gulf of Papua there is also a village-based lobster fishery. The collection of invertebrates, for both commercial (beche-de-mer, trochus and other shells) and subsistence purposes is extensive (Freidman et al., 2008). PNG is unique in the Pacific Islands region in that the underwater topography of the country is appropriate for shrimp trawling. In recent decades, there has been shrimp trawling in four areas of the country, with the major fishery being in the Gulf of Papua.

Estimates of catches from the coastal fisheries vary widely. In 2015, an SPC study (Gillett, 2016) examined a large number of studies on coastal fishing in PNG and concluded that in 2014 (a) the coastal subsistence production of PNG was about 35 000 tonnes, worth USD 66.7 million; and (b) the coastal commercial production was 6 500 tonnes, worth USD 50.6 million to the producer.

The lack of a fisheries statistical system for coastal fisheries prevents the identification of quantitative trends in these fisheries. There is, however, a general perception that the important coastal resources are increasingly subject to over-exploitation close to urban areas.

PNG’s coastal commercial fisheries appear small in relation to the size of the country. This is ironic considering the effort that has been focused on their development. Box 1 explores this issue.

Box 1: Development of commercial food fisheries in PNG

While some of the PNG fisheries for dry products have been going on for over a century, very few coastal villagers have supplied fresh chilled or frozen commercial food fish markets in any ongoing way. It has been widely assumed by the public, government and aid donors that it should be profitable to catch fish in rural areas and transport them chilled or frozen for sale in urban areas, or to export them. From the 1970s, governments and aid donors started projects to provide infrastructure, equipment and/or training for rural fishers to kick-start commercial food fisheries. Most of these activities however, collapsed soon after the withdrawal of support from government or the funding agencies. Considering all the investment, why have cash-earning food fisheries not taken off in most rural coastal and island areas in PNG to date?

The main reason would appear to be that such fisheries are usually not profitable without high external inputs. Unlike high-value, easy-to-store-and-transport shells and dried marine products, fresh, chilled and frozen fish are low value to weight and are tricky to store and transport in good condition. The costs and difficulties involved in getting fish from rural areas out to markets, and getting fuel and mechanical repairs into rural coastal areas, usually outweigh the prices fetched by the fish. When the project funding stops, therefore, the fisheries stop soon after.

Source: Modified from Barclay and Kinch (2013)
Landing sites

In the offshore fisheries, the catch is offloaded at a variety of locations. Longliners mostly offload their catch at Port Moresby due to the relatively simple logistics of airfreighting to overseas destinations. Most of the catch of locally based purse seiners is offloaded directly to a domestic processing facility. The foreign-based purse seiners either transship to a foreign port (mainly those vessels from China, Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines) or deliver directly to their home port (mainly those vessels from Japan and USA).

Most of the shrimp-trawler vessels are based in the capital, Port Moresby, and offload their catch there.

The small-scale commercial catch is mainly offloaded in or near coastal urban and semi-urban areas throughout the country. Non-perishable fishery products (e.g. beche-de-mer, trochus) are offloaded in virtually any coastal area, though mainly at the fishers’ base of operations. Subsistence fishery landings occur at coastal villages throughout the country, roughly in proportion to the distribution of the population.
Fishing practices/systems

Virtually all offshore fishing in PNG waters is by purse seining and longlining. Table 7 gives the number of active PNG-based purse seiners and longliners in 2015. Table 5 above indicates the catches by area of the purse-seine fleet (i.e. whether inside or outside PNG waters).

Table 7: PNG-based offshore fleet

Purse seiners   Longliners
Size class (GRT) Number   Size class (GRT) Number
0–500 3   0–50 5
500–1 000 8   50–200 15
1 000–1 500 30   200–500 0
1 500+ 11   500+ 0
Unknown 1   Unknown 0
Total 53   Total 20
Source: NFA (2016)

The fishing areas of PNG’s offshore fleet are related to where the vessels are based. The purse seiners that are based at processing facilities in PNG tend to fish more in PNG waters than outside. The locally based longline vessels fish exclusively in PNG waters.

The coastal commercial fisheries use a wide variety of production means. These range from relatively sophisticated operations targeting live reef fish (for food), using large vessels capable of transporting the catch to Asia, to small-scale operators who collect invertebrates by hand for export. Although there has never been a national survey to catalogue production means, fish for sale are typically harvested using lines, spears and nets from an unpowered canoe or outboard-powered skiff. Handlining takes large and small reef-associated carnivores, underwater spearing takes large reef fish, surface spearing takes pelagic carnivores, and netting exploits nearly all sections of the reef community, from large carnivores to small herbivores.

Coastal subsistence fisheries use extremely varied means of production, reflecting the diversity of the country’s coastal environments. Different fishing gear is used along the mainland and high island coasts, in the swampy lowland areas, and in the Gulf of Papua. In general, subsistence fishing techniques are knowledge intensive, but the gear is relatively unsophisticated.
Main resources

Table 8 shows the species composition of the catch of PNG-based purse seiners fishing in PNG waters and outside PNG waters. The incidence of yellowfin and “other” in the catch is much greater in PNG waters, probably due to greater use of fish aggregation devices (FADs) in PNG waters than outside.

Table 8: Species composition of the catch of PNG-based purse seiners

 PNG waters



PNG waters



PNG waters



PNG waters



Average annual

catch 2011-2015 (tonnes)

86 87277 94235 50811 2576545493 410759
Percentage composition69%86%28%12%1%1%3%1%
Source: modified from NFA (2016)

Table 9 gives the composition of the catch of PNG-based longliners. All of their fishing is in PNG waters, and as the table shows, the fishery is oriented to yellowfin.

Table 9: Species composition of the catch of PNG-based longliners



 Yellowfin1 8582 0178525551 2881 31463.5%


Black Marlin1225221018170.8%
 Blue Marlin133119693525763.7%
 Striped Marlin8605860.3%


Blue Shark    000.0%
 Silky Shark    770.3%
 Mako Shark    000.0%
 White Tip    110.0%
 Thresher      0.0%
 Shark sp.1077911520241024.9%
Total2 7623 1551 4381 0691 9192 068 100%
Source: Modified from NFA (2016); units: tonnes unless otherwise noted

In terms of the status of the main fish resources described in the above tables, the four major species of tuna in PNG mix freely with those of the neighboring countries in the western and central Pacific. Recent information from the Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC, 2016) shows that for:

  • skipjack the stock is currently only moderately exploited and fishing mortality levels are sustainable;
  • bigeye – recent analysis indicates that overfishing is occurring for the bigeye tuna stock and that to reduce fishing mortality to that at maximum sustainable yield a large reduction in fishing mortality is required;
  • yellowfin – the current total biomass and spawning biomass are higher than at levels associated with maximum sustainable yields. Therefore, yellowfin tuna is not considered to be in an overfished state;
  • South Pacific albacore – there is no indication that current levels of catch are causing recruitment overfishing, particularly given the age selectivity of the fisheries. It should be noted that longline catch rates are declining, and catches over the last 10 years have been at historically high levels and are increasing.
The coastal fisheries of PNG comprise four broad categories: demersal fish (bottom-dwelling fish associated with mangrove, seagrass and coral reef habitats), nearshore pelagic fish (including tuna, wahoo, mackerel, rainbow runner and mahimahi), invertebrates targeted for export, and invertebrates gleaned from intertidal and subtidal areas (Bell et al., 2011).

The small-scale coastal marine fisheries (both commercial and subsistence) take a very large number of finfish and invertebrate species. Kailola (1995) states that PNG contains some of the highest diversity of reef-associated fishes in the Indo-Pacific. The food fishes characteristically found on PNG’s coral reefs include wrasse (Labridae), groupers (Serranidae), emperors (Lethrinidae), bream (Sparidae), sea perch and fusiliers (Lutjanidae), parrotfish (Scaridae), sweetlips (Haemulidae), butterflybream and monocle bream (Nemipteridae), squirrelfish (Holocentridae), drummers (Kyphosidae), eels (Muraenidae), triggerfish (Balistidae), rabbitfish (Siganidae), surgeonfish and unicornfish (Acanthuridae) and goatfish (Mullidae). Trevallies (Carangidae), mullet (Mugilidae) and barracuda (Sphyraenidae) are frequent pelagic reef inhabitants. In addition to the above reef-associated finfish species, the small-scale coastal marine fisheries of PNG also harvest those species associated with estuaries, mangroves, deep reef slope and pelagic environments. The common invertebrates taken in coastal fisheries include beche-de-mer, lobsters, trochus, giant clams, crabs, octopus and green snail. Seaweeds are also gathered as a contribution to subsistence food supplies.

Kailola (1995) profiled 30 groups of PNG coastal fishery resources. As an example, Box 2 summarizes the information on mullets in PNG.

Box 2: PNG fisheries resources profiles – Information on mullets

Species present: Kailola (1987) recorded 18 species belonging to seven genera of mullet (family Mugilidae) from PNG waters. They are Goldie River mullet (Cestraeus plicatilis), wart-lipped mullet (Crenimugil crenilabis), fringe-lipped mullet (C. heterocheilus), basket mullet (Liza alata), large-scaled mullet (L. macrolepis), cream mullet (L. melinoptera), giant-scaled mullet (L. parmata), flat-tailed mullet (L. subviridis), rock mullet (L. tade), diamond-scale mullet (Liza vaigiensis), sea mullet (Mugil cephalus), hornlip mullet (Oedalechilus labiosus), shark or mud mullet (Rhinomugil nasutus), bluetail mullet (Valamugil buchanani), round-headed mullet (V. cunnesius), Engel’s mullet (V. engeli), blue-spot mullet (V. seheli) and Speigler’s mullet (V. speigleri).

Distribution: Mullets occur in all tropical and temperate seas, usually near shore, frequently in brackish estuaries and fresh water. Within PNG, L. vaigiensis and V. seheli are common in the New Guinea islands (Wright and Richards, 1985), L. macrolepis and V. seheli are common in Sissano Lagoon on the north coast of the mainland (Ulaiwi, 1992) and Liza species and Mugil species are common on the south coast (Lock, 1986). In the Purari River system, different species of mullet replace each other upstream and downstream: L. parmata and V. buchanani in the Purari River are replaced downstream respectively by L. vaigiensis, L. dussumieri, L. tade, and V. seheli (Haines, 1983). Haines also deduced that small juveniles of the freshwater species Crenimugil labiosus migrate upstream (in the Purari River) against a powerful current.

Additional PNG mullet information on:

  • biology and ecology
  • utilisation
  • stock status
  • management
  • current legislation/policy regarding exploitation
  • recommended legislation/policy regarding exploitation
  • references
Source: Kailola (1995)

A review of PNG inshore fisheries and fisheries management instruments (SPC, 2013) contains some general information on the status of coastal fishery resources in PNG:

Overall, exploitation of coastal fisheries in PNG is thought to occur below localised maximum sustainable yields, although fishing pressure has seen the collapse of some fisheries in some localities, e.g. poor fish catches around urban centres, such as PNG’s national capital, Port Moresby. Another example is the collapse of the sea cucumber fishery, which has just had its previous three-year moratorium extended for another three years to 2015. The extended closure of the sea cucumber fishery in PNG is thought to have some impacts on other fisheries, particularly as fishing for reef fish and deep-water snapper as an artisanal activity has declined; and artisanal shark fishing for fins has increased in significance as an income-earning activity for coastal and island fishers.
Management applied to main fisheries

The tuna fisheries in PNG are managed on national, subregional, and regional levels:

  • On the national level, the management of the PNG fishery is guided by the National Tuna Fishery Management and Development Plan,4 which establishes an overall management structure and an application framework for all tuna fisheries. This includes license limits, catch and effort controls, gear restrictions, the use of FADs and other management tools for the purpose of tuna resource conservation and management, and combating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities. The plan is updated when necessary to conform to the country’s development plans as well as regional and international obligations and agreements (NFA, 2015).
  • On the subregional level, PNG cooperates with the other countries that are members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, which is described below.
  • On the regional level, PNG is a member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) that was established by the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. PNG and the other 26 members of the commission enact tuna management measures at the annual WCPFC meeting. From the PNG perspective, the most important recent measure is the Conservation and Management Measure for Bigeye, Yellowfin and Skipjack Tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
A crucial aspect of the management of the offshore fisheries in PNG is the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA). The early history of the PNA is given by Tarte (2002):

In February 1982, the Nauru Agreement Concerning Cooperation in the Management of Fisheries of Common Interest was opened for signature. The Nauru Agreement was negotiated by seven Pacific Island states – Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, PNG and Solomon Islands. This group of countries (later joined by Tuvalu) is known collectively as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA). The conclusion of the Nauru Agreement marked the beginning of a new era in Pacific Island cooperation in the management of the region’s tuna stocks. It was an important milestone in the exercise of coastal state sovereign rights over their 200-mile EEZs. The PNA group accounts for much of the tuna catch in the Pacific Island region. In 1999, it produced 98 percent of the tuna catch taken from the EEZs of Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members; 70 percent came from three PNA members: PNG, FSM and Kiribati. The group also accounted for 94 percent of the access fees paid to the FFA Pacific Island states. By controlling access to these fishing grounds, the PNA group collectively wields enormous influence and power.

The most important fishery management tool of the PNA is the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), which is described in Box 3.

Box 3: PNA Vessel Day Scheme

In 2000, a study suggested that the PNA purse-seine management scheme that was then based on vessel numbers be replaced by a scheme based on purse-seine fishing days. The transition was actually made seven years later. In 2007, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement began implementing the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), transitioning from permitting a total number of purse-seine vessels in the region (205) to permitting a total allowable effort (TAE) in number of purse-seine fishing days (44 703 days for 2012; 44 890 days for 2016). Given the volume, value and multi-jurisdictional nature of the fishery, it is arguably one of the most complex fishery management arrangements ever put in place. Its key features are as follows:

  • System of tradable fishing effort (days) allocated to the 8 Parties
  • Limit on total effort (TAE) ~ 45,000 days
  • TAE is allocated to Parties based on zonal biomass and historical effort as PAEs (Party Allowable Effort)
  • Fishing days are sold to fleets for fishing in each EEZ
  • There is a minimum benchmark price for VDS days sold to foreign vessels
  • Fishing days are monitored by a satellite-based Vessel Monitoring System (VMS)
  • VMS monitoring is supported by observers on board all vessels
  • Days are tradable between Parties
  • Scheme costs are financed by levies on vessels

Due to the complicated nature of the new VDS system and the various constraints of the government fisheries agencies of the region (e.g. under-funded, under-staffed), it was expected there would be problems in the introduction of the scheme. This is not to say that the VDS has not produced substantial benefits for PNA countries. The system is creating competition for a limited number of days, thereby increasing the value of each day. In practice, the value of a fishing day before the VDS was roughly USD 1 350, but it increased to about USD 5 000 in July 2011 and days were being sold in 2016 for over USD 12 000.

On a different and less tangible level, another benefit is that the VDS moves fisheries management in the region to a desirable rights-based system. That is, fishing rights (such as vessel days) can be defined, allocated and traded. Consistent with this transition to a rights-based approach, a VDS-style arrangement for management of the tropical longline fishery is being implemented by PNA.

Source: Havice (2013); Campling (2013); Gillett (2014); Clark & Clark (2014)

Several coastal commercial fisheries are managed through fishery management plans. These include the:
  • National Live Reef Food Fish Fishery Management Plan
  • National Beche-de-mer Fisheries Management Plan
  • Barramundi Fishery Management Plan
  • Torres Strait and Western Province Tropical Rock Lobster Management Plan
  • Gulf of Papua Prawn Fishery Management Plan
A general feature of the management of coastal fisheries in PNG and of the management plans above is the sharing of management responsibilities between the various levels of government. An extract from the National Beche-de-mer Fisheries Management Plan (Box 4) describes this sharing of management action.

Box 4: Beche-de-mer management in PNG

The sea cucumber fishery in PNG will be primarily managed jointly by the National Fisheries Authority, respective Maritime Provincial Governments, respective Local Level Governments (LLGs) and communities. The role of the National Fisheries Authority, respective Maritime Provincial Governments, and Maritime LLGs and communities will be as follows:

  • The National Fisheries Authority will be responsible for formulating and implementing the Management Plan and will provide resources for obtaining, analysing data and determining management measures which will include the minimum size limits, closed seasons, total allowable catches (TACs), the maximum number of exporters and buyers per province, licensing criteria and guidelines for licences, aquaculture and sea ranching guidelines, as well as the establishment of the National Management Advisory Committee.

  • The Maritime Provincial Governments will be responsible for implementing the Management Plan at their respective levels; this includes the ability to set lower TACs (only at the Provincial level or split amongst LLGs but only as long as it does not exceed the Provincial TAC), higher size limits, longer closed seasons, advising the National Fisheries Authority on licenses, supporting resource owners and communities in their management actions and will also have the option to establish Management Advisory Committees at either or both the Provincial and LLG level if they feel that this will enhance the legal and management framework at those levels for the sea cucumber fishery. Any new provincial and Local Level Government management strategies, must not conflict with this Management Plan.

  • Communities and resource owners will be responsible for implementing the Management Plan at their respective levels, as well as developing management strategies at their level or with the support of the LLG and Provincial governments or other civil society actors. strategies developed by resource owners, must not conflict with this Management Plan.
Source: National Beche-de-mer Fisheries Management Plan

The traditional management of fisheries in PNG is complex. Section 5 of the Customs Recognition Act of the Constitution bestows ownership rights over water, and to reefs, seabed and species of fish to traditional owners. The law thus provides for the acknowledgement of existing traditional rights of ownership of inshore waters and fisheries. The difficulty is that marine tenure systems vary greatly across PNG (SPC, 2013).

In practice, the management of coastal subsistence fisheries is mainly carried out by communities. Though there is a huge variety of systems in place, an intervention that is common to many management systems is the selective exclusion of outsiders from fishing.

(4) Version certified 25 September, 2014.

Management objectives

The Fisheries Management Act 1998 (as amended in 2012) stipulates that fisheries management plans are to specify management objectives. Accordingly, the National Tuna Fishery Management and Development Plan5 states:

To achieve the aims of this Plan the following objectives have been identified: (a) Increased domestication of tuna industries. (b) Building fisheries businesses. (c) Improved fisheries access agreements. (d) Enhanced regional cooperative arrangements. (e) Increased social benefits. (f) Improved harvest strategies. (g) Increased market and trade opportunities. (h) Sustainability certification and price premiums. (i) Increased control over fishing in the PNG fisheries management area. (j) Increased use of rights-based approaches. (k) Increased capacity to realize commercial opportunities. (l) Actively combat IUU activities. (m) Implement a full and thorough catch documentation regime. (n) Apply technology and tools for comprehensive near real-time management. (o) Implement user pays policy to cost recover management. (p) Provide direct and indirect opportunities to the PNG population to both participate in, and benefit from, economic development.

In addition to these stated objectives, an important objective of the management of tuna fisheries in PNG has been the generation of government revenue. An SPC study estimated that access fees for foreign tuna fishing in PNG waters were USD 44 million in 2013 and USD 85 million in 2014 (Gillett, 2016).

The objectives of the management of coastal fisheries in PNG are varied but have many common elements, as shown in the management plans for two coastal fisheries:

  • The objectives in the National Beche-de-mer Fisheries Management Plan are to: (a) manage the sea cucumber fishery for the long-term economic benefit of coastal and island communities throughout Papua New Guinea; (b) ensure the use of sea cucumber stocks is biologically sustainable and that sea cucumber populations are maintained at required levels that will allow them to continue to play their role in the marine ecosystem; and (c) ensure that the co-operative implementation of this Management Plan and associated governance involve support and input from relevant government, industry, resource owners, communities, other civil society actors and research institutions.
  • The objectives in the Torres Strait and Western Province Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery Management Plan are to: (a) manage the fishery to ensure that the stock size would be maintained annually at a level that will give maximum sustainable economic yield; (b) ensure that the development of the tropical rock lobster fishery benefits the traditional users, particularly the traditional inhabitants of the Torres Strait Protected Zone; (c) maximise the opportunities for traditional inhabitants to participate by implementing policies that include managing the fishery as a dive fishery; and (d) manage the fishery with a precautionary approach.
In the huge array of coastal subsistence fisheries, there is great diversity of management arrangements and objectives.

NFA’s objectives in its work with community fisheries are given in the Policy Framework and Strategic Plan (2006–2008) for Community-based Fisheries Management in Papua New Guinea (FAO, 2006). This policy’s goals are to:

  • achieve sustainable livelihoods for stakeholders, particularly the rural-based population, in socio-economic terms;
  • attain a balanced level of conservation and management action that ensures sustainable use of natural resources and protection of the environment for the benefit of present and future generations;
  • contribute to local, provincial and national revenue generation for the promotion and continuation of sustainable development of PNG.
(5) Version certified 25 September, 2014.

Management measures and institutional arrangements

The main management measure for the tuna purse-seine fishery is the allocation of a limited number of days in the Vessel Day Scheme (Box 3 above). A similar scheme for the longline fishery is being introduced. For both purse-seine and longline fisheries, other management measures operate concurrently with the VDS. These include closed areas (e.g. bans on fishing close to shore), gear restrictions (e.g. seasonal bans on FADs) and vessel restrictions (e.g. purse seiners in archipelagic waters to be less than 80 m in length).

The management measures for coastal commercial fisheries are stated in the associated management plans. As an example, the Torres Strait and Western Province Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery Management Plan uses several management measures, including restricted licensing (e.g. all licenses holders must be based in Daru.), size limits (e.g. ban on catching tropical rock lobster with a tail length of less than 115 mm), gear restrictions (e.g. ban on fishing using scuba gear), and total allowable catch (based on the catch-sharing arrangement between PNG and Australia).

Under the Fisheries Management Act, a function of NFA is to “manage the fisheries within the fisheries waters” of PNG. The NFA’s institutional arrangements are described below.

Devolution of fisheries management powers from the national level to provincial governments is provided for under the auspices of the 1997 Organic Law on Provincial Governments and Local-level Governments, whereby lower-level governments can make management regulations for natural resources under Sections 42 and 44 (SPC, 2013).
Fishing communities

The concept of “fishing communities” has limited applicability to Papua New Guinea. Nearly all households in coastal villages are involved in fishing activities. It could therefore be stated that all coastal villages in PNG are “fishing communities”. To some extent this concept also applies to villages adjacent to significant rivers and other bodies of fresh water.
Inland sub-sector

Coates (1996) describes the major features of the inland fisheries in PNG:

  • Over 87 percent of the population live inland and have no direct access to marine, only to freshwater, aquatic resources.
  • Even in highland areas of PNG, where fish stocks are very poor, over 50 percent of the population engages in fishing activities in many areas, traditionally for eels but, more recently, catches include a number of exotic species.
  • Commercial exploitation of PNG’s fresh waters is limited: southern-flowing rivers support a small barramundi (Lates calcarifer) fishery, although this has recently declined; modest amounts of freshwater prawns are landed seasonally, estimated at no more than 10 tonnes per year.
Two major river systems, the Sepik/Ramu and the Fly/Purari, are quite extensive and provide most of the freshwater fish harvest. The Fly River system in PNG’s Western Province is the largest river in the country and has the most diverse freshwater fish fauna in Australasia (Swales, 2000). Box 5 describes the river and its fisheries.

Box 5: The Fly River and its fisheries

The first systematic survey of the fish populations of the Fly River was carried out in the mid-1970s by T. R. Roberts, who discovered that the fish populations in the Fly are characterized by the large size of some species, the abundance of endemic species and the dominance by groups that are poorly represented in other parts of the world. The Fly River system was found to support the most diverse fish fauna in the Australasian region, with 128 recorded native freshwater species representing 33 families. Seventeen species are known only from the Fly basin, and 30 or more are known only from the Fly River and one or more of the large rivers in central-southern New Guinea. The total catch from both areas reached 330 tons/year in the early 1970s, but the commercial fishery on the coast ceased operation in 1990 because of declining catch rates.

The primary human use of the aquatic ecosystem is the subsistence fishery, which forms part of the traditional way of life of villagers living along the river. Most fish are consumed by the villagers, with catfish being the preferred species, compared to barramundi and black bass in the commercial fishery. It has been estimated that the current use is 416 tons/year, assuming a weekly fish intake of 2 kg/person and a population size of 4 000 people. Based on new data released in March 1999, there are now estimated to be 5 000 people living along the middle Fly River, resulting in a new fish yield estimate of 520 tons/year. These estimates do not account for by-catch that is not used or the commercial barramundi and bass fishery. Assuming that by-catch equals 10 percent of the fish consumed and that the commercial barramundi and bass fishery is responsible for approximately 36 tons/year, the estimated yield based on the combined artisanal and commercial fishery is approximately 600 tonnes/year.

Source: Swales (2000)

Most of the present landings from the Sepik/Ramu consist of two introduced species. Because of the very limited fish biodiversity, a project aimed at increasing fishery productivity by introducing exotic species operated for several years up to 1997. As a result of the project, many freshwater bodies have been enhanced through stocking with imported species. These include tilapia, Java carp, rainbow trout and at least seven other types.

Similar to the situation for coastal fisheries, there is insufficient information in PNG for estimating the annual production from inland fisheries. Preston (1996) made an educated guess of 13 500 tonnes annually, and that amount is often cited. Two studies (Gillett, 2009; 2016) took the Preston amount and increased it to account for population growth. In summary, the freshwater production of PNG in 2014 was estimated to be 20 000 tonnes, worth USD 38 million. The very poor factual basis for this estimate should be recognized.

Except for the barramundi fishery (Box 6) and some commercial sales of tilapia, there has been little commercial development of freshwater fishery resources.

Box 6: Barramundi in PNG

In Papua New Guinea, barramundi, Lates calcarifer, occurs naturally only in the southern part of the country, from Mullins Bay in the east to Irian Jaya/PNG border in the west. Barramundi are most abundant in rivers with substantial lake and swamp systems, and with extensive deltas, an obvious characteristic of the Gulf of Papua and the adjacent Papuan coast. The population is concentrated in the Gulf of Papua, with the deltaic systems of the Fly, Kikori and Purari Rivers. Studies on the life history and reproductive biology of barramundi show that it is a protandrous hermaphrodite that starts life primarily as males, with the proportion of females in the population increasing with length. This life history pattern shows that the fish has greater vulnerability to fishing activities during the seasonal growth and spawning migrations (peak spawning migration between October and November) to a relatively restricted area; thus management of the barramundi should focus on the protection of the juveniles and the large breeding females.

The commercial fishery for barramundi in PNG began in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was based in Western Province. Following government surveys around Daru in the early 1960s, the Western Province commercial barramundi fishery developed rapidly with processing and distribution centres being set up in the province. In the late 1980s barramundi ranked fourth among commercial fisheries in PNG in terms of total fish production and foreign exchange earnings. The fishery was important to coastal communities in Western Province because of the large number of artisanal fishers involved and the cash income generated in areas with few alternative sources of income. This export commercial fishery caught 200-300 tonnes of barramundi a year, with the majority of this being caught in the Daru area. However, in the early 1990s the catches were as low as 4 tonnes from the Daru based fishery, which forced the commercial fishery to close. Since then only the artisanal barramundi fisheries on the coast and the middle Fly River have continued to operate. Production by the coastal artisanal fishery has resumed in recent years, with catches up to 170 tonnes annually. This is indicative of the recovering barramundi stock in the Western Province and the Gulf of Papua.

Source: Barramundi Fishery Management Plan

The means used for inland fisheries production are almost exclusively very small-scale fishing gear, with the most significant methods being trapping, netting and handlining from shore and dugout canoes, and spearing.

With respect to management of inland fisheries, because most of the fishing is on a very small-scale subsistence basis, most management interventions are undertaken by local communities. Exceptions include fisheries such as the Fly River barramundi fishery for which an NFA fishery management plan has been formulated and implemented.

The Barramundi Fishery Management Plan states that the management objectives are to: (a) protect the barramundi stock in the management area from depletion or stock decline; and (b) ensure sustainable fisheries development practices for the participation and benefit of traditional resource users. The plan specifies several management measures, including:

  • the requirement for the following types of licences: fish buyers’ licence, fish export facility licence, fish storage facility licence and collector vessel licence;
  • a total allowable catch of 260 tonnes per annum;
  • a ban on gillnets and beach seine nets with mesh size greater than 15 cm;
  • closure of the main spawning and breeding grounds between Sigabaduru Village and the PNG/Irian Jaya border
The management objectives and measures for the other inland fisheries are not formalized. They consist of local community interventions, often in support of the objective of protecting the flow of fishery foods to villages.

An important management concept concerns the relationship of freshwater to inland fisheries. The issues, problems and solutions for fresh water, in general, tend to run in parallel with those for freshwater fisheries, so interventions to improve water quality are likely to improve freshwater fisheries.
Aquaculture sub-sector

A recent SPC study (Gillett, 2016) estimated recent aquaculture production in PNG based on discussions with the staff of NFA’s Aquaculture and Inland Fisheries Section, available documentation, and correspondence with knowledgeable individuals. The results are summarized in Table 10.

Table 10: PNG aquaculture production

CommodityType of production

Current estimated annual production

(tonnes except where noted)

Annual production value (USD)Comment
TilapiaSubsistence and small-scale commercial100 389 105 Estimates of up to 50 000 farms have been made, which – considering total PNG production of 100 mt – indicates an annual average of 2 kg per farm
CarpSubsistence 20 to 30 82 685 Many farmers have switched to tilapia recently
SeaweedSmall-scale commercial300 116 732  
TroutProduction for restaurants and supermarkets5 to 10 94 844 Started production in late 2007; currently only one farm due to feed issues
PrawnProduction for restaurants and supermarkets10 175 Recent ownership change
PearlExport?? Farm, which started production in 2007, is currently for sale
BarramundiMost production is currently oriented to re-stocking100 000 to 200 000 fingerlings 58 366 Farm is partly owned by mining company that is accused of polluting the Fly River, so production is related to the corporate social responsibilities of that company
CrocodileLarge and small operations for export10 000 skins 486 381

A few large and many small farms.

Sources: J. Wani, M. Brownjohn, Alitana Trout Farm staff; Mainland Holdings staff; Gillett (2009)

The above production equates to about 145 tonnes plus 160 000 pieces, with a farm-gate value of about USD 1 228 288.

For many years there has been debate on the quantity of tilapia farmed in the highlands. The SPC study (Gillett, 2016) explores this subject:

A 2001 survey (Smith, 2007) alluded to a very large number of farms in the highlands area. In 2008, a student studying tilapia in PNG stated there are between 40 000–50 000 small-scale tilapia operations, which, based on the average number of ponds, stocking rates, mortality and expected output, would give an annual production of 924 tonnes. In contrast, the Executive Manager of NFA’s Aquaculture and Inland Fisheries Section feels that the student’s estimate of the number of ponds and the productivity of the ponds is too high, and he confirms his estimate of 100 tonnes of tilapia per year in PNG.

The NFA Corporate Plan 2008–2012 lists priority actions with respect to aquaculture:

  • Ongoing consultation with stakeholders to promote sustainable fisheries and identify opportunities for potential new fishery and aquaculture development.
  • Undertake a consultative review of the NFA aquaculture policy so as to better reflect domestic and global trends in aquaculture.
  • Facilitate and undertake research and projects in collaboration with international and national stakeholders to overcome challenges in aquaculture development.
  • Work with stakeholders to develop and facilitate training and skill development opportunities to increase human resource capacity in relation to aquaculture development demands.
As can be seen from the above list, the priorities for NFA’s involvement in aquaculture lie in developing an aquaculture industry, rather than in managing existing activities. Another indication of aquaculture management in the country is the list of requirements for an aquaculture licence. According to the “Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority Licensing Policy”, an aquaculture licence requires:

  • a preliminary audit report
  • lease/rental agreement
  • plans and specification of the facility
  • the resource owner’s approval
  • a water treatment or discharge plan
  • Department of Environment and Conservation – Environmental Permit
  • National Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Authority – Certificate of Fitness
  • proposal/business plan – a model is provided by NFA
  • an incorporation/registration certificate
  • a photo of the business owner
  • a bank statement
  • provincial endorsement
  • an application fee.
In terms of the future for PNG aquaculture:

  • the PNG Inland Aquaculture and Fisheries Strategic Plan 2014–2023 gives the following key results areas: (a) effective broodstock management and fingerling production, (b) market chain and fish farming economics knowledge and planning for a sustainable, strong industry, (c) high-quality, inexpensive feed formulations for existing aquaculture species available at all times, (d) increased capacity, and (e) enhanced growth in emerging industries;
  • the ”Papua New Guinea Vision 2050” (National Strategic Plan Taskforce) includes the statement: “develop aquaculture as a priority programme targeting inland areas for wealth creation”.
Recreational sub-sector

Although subsistence fishing may have a large social component and be enjoyed by participants, there is little recreational fishing as a leisure activity for villagers.

Regular sport-fishing activities (mainly targeting tunas and other oceanic fish) are found in the larger population centers, including Lae, Port Moresby and Madang. Most participants are resident expatriates. Less regular, tourism-associated sport fishing occurs in some resort centres, such as Kavieng and Rabaul, most often associated with resorts offering diving and other water sports. Sport-fishing competitions are held regularly in some areas, including an international competition organized by the Port Moresby Game Fishing Club. FADs have been deployed by some recreational sport-fishing associations off Port Moresby and Lae to increase productivity. Recreational fishing of black bass in fresh water is becoming important in the country, and is receiving considerable international attention (Martin, 2015).

There is little formal management of recreational fishing activities. The Fisheries Management Act states: “Unless otherwise specified by or under this Act, the provisions of this Act do not apply to or in relation to the taking of fish….for sport or pleasure”. The National Tuna Fishery Management and Development Plan contains some mention of game fishing:

  • All vessels involved in the tuna fishery and associated operations (which may include game fisheries and artisanal fisheries) shall be licensed in accordance with the Fishery Management Act 1998.
  • The game-fish fishery remains in its infancy and there is significant scope for expansion. Under this Plan, NFA shall maintain an open dialogue with the game-fishing sector including collaboration on tagging and other scientific programmes.
  • Inshore FADs and commercially deployed, anchored FADs, are encouraged to be used without restriction by artisanal, small-scale handline, and game fishers.
Post-harvest sector

Fish utilization

For the offshore fisheries, the prime tuna catch from the longline fleet is exported to Japan, with lesser grades and catch of non-tuna species sold domestically. For the purse-seine fleet, a growing amount of purse-seine tuna is processed in PNG. Part of the purse-seine catch is transshipped to canneries (mainly in Asia) or delivered directly by the seiners to a cannery in the Philippines or American Samoa.

In 2015, the country hosted five large tuna-processing facilities, with a sixth under construction. The locations, Wewak, Lae and Madang, were chosen for a variety of logistical, political and practical reasons. The capital, Port Moresby, has not been mentioned seriously as a processing site, most likely because of its distance to PNG’s purse-seine fishing grounds relative to the other sites (McCoy et al., 2015).

The five existing tuna-processing facilities, with ownership, and maximum and current processing capacities, are shown in Table 11.

Table 11: Ownership and capacities of existing tuna-processing facilities in PNG


(location, year established)



Maximum capacity

(tonnes input per day)




RD Tuna Processors

(Madang, 1997)

RD Group of Companies (Philippines) 200

120 (2011)

25 000–30 000

Frabelle Corp.

(Lae, 2006)

Frabelle Fishing Corporation (Philippines) 100–120

70–80 (2011)

~20 000


(Wewak, 2003)

FCF (Taiwan)

Bank of South Pacific (PNG)

East Sepik Provincial Government (PNG)


70–80 (2011)

~20 000


(Lae, unknown)

Kumpulan FIMA Berhad (Malaysia) 40

3 (2012)


Majestic Seafoods

(Lae, 2013)

Thai Union (Thailand

Frabelle (Philippines)

Century Canning (Philippines)

120 with target of 350

80 (2014)

20 000

Sources: McCoy et al. (2015) using various sources

One product that is highly acceptable in the domestic market is relatively inexpensive canned tuna containing a significant quantity of red meat or “blood meat”, sometimes referred to as “black meat”, which is obtained during the tuna loining process. The product was initially produced in the region by Solomon Taiyo as “Solomon Blue” in the late 1970s. Sales outside Solomon Islands created a favourable marketing environment in PNG and processors took note. Blood meat is also used to produce pet food and fish meal (McCoy et al., 2015).Most of the coastal commercial catch destined for domestic consumption is utilized in urban or peri-urban areas, close to the fishers’ base of operations. Much commercial seafood demand in PNG is from commercial or institutional buyers, such as fast-food outlets, restaurants and hotels. However, small-scale fishers and fish merchants have difficulty responding to the needs of these buyers due to problems of quality, product volume and form, and consistency of supply. Most institutional and commercial buyers prefer to purchase from larger fishing companies, which can assure regular supplies of the desired product quality and form.

The subsistence fisheries (both coastal and inland), as the name implies, are focused on production of food for home use. Significant amounts of fish are, however, given away to friends and relatives. In some communities, production in excess of immediate needs is salted or dried for future use.
Fish markets

The major markets for PNG’s important offshore fisheries are located overseas. Japan is the main market for fresh longline tuna. Unprocessed purse-seine tuna is exported mainly to canneries in Asia. Canned tuna is marketed domestically as well as exported. In the past, the US provided most of the market for RD’s exported loins and cans, often in larger institutional/food service sizes. SSTC also used the US, primarily Bumble Bee, as its primary market for light-meat, frozen, cooked loins. However, the trade concessions obtained from the EU have changed the export landscape and now almost all exported processed tuna is sent to the EU.

Domestic fish markets are found in the urban areas of the country. PNG has about 20 coastal cities and towns with populations of over 5 000 and most of these places have fish markets, although some are quite rudimentary.

PNG, like many other Pacific Island countries, has had major involvement in rural fish collection and marketing schemes. Box 7 below reviews some of the lessons learned from PNG’s largest collection/marketing attempt.

Box 7: PNG’s fish collection and marketing centres

During the early 1970s a number of fish collection and marketing centres were established. This led to the Coastal Fisheries Development Program, the biggest publicly funded fisheries development activity ever undertaken in PNG. The program, planned in the late 1970s, envisaged the construction or rehabilitation of 20 coastal fisheries stations separated by distances of about 200 km and each equipped to freeze and store about 1 tonne of fish per day. Fish collection vessels would deliver ice to outlying villages and collect their catches, while a vessel with freezer storage would collect the product and transport it to the major towns for local sale or export. Funding was provided mainly by the National Government, but in some cases Provincial Governments and donors also provided inputs.

Twenty-two coastal fisheries stations were actually established and became operational at one time or another. Up to a dozen collection vessels over 10 m length and numerous smaller collection boats were deployed, but results were disappointing. A review of four stations undertaken in 1984 concluded that they were all over-capitalized, under-utilized and economically non-viable. Three of the most productive stations were refurbished with loan funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and although the best of these (Samarai in Milne Bay Province) produced up to 300 tonnes of fish a year, all of them still operated at a loss. Problems included delays in installing and maintaining equipment (a government department's responsibility), poor fish quality and marketing problems, difficulty in recruiting and retaining competent managers, and a confusion between commercial and service activities.

With the benefit of hindsight, the weaknesses of the project can easily be identified:

  • Insufficient attention was paid to site selection. The project was intended to cover the whole country, rather than focusing on areas of opportunity in terms of production and marketing. Even the most productive station was located on an island with an inadequate water supply.

  • The use of freezing as a means of preservation was inappropriate. It involved high operating costs to produce a product that is not valued on the local market.

  • Estimates of fish production were over-optimistic, and failed to take account of the part-time nature of most artisanal fishing in rural PNG.

  • No specific measures were taken to integrate increased fish production into the project design. It was assumed that providing a Government-run fish buying centre would be enough.

  • As with many Government-run facilities in PNG, there was a lack of commercial focus and accountability. Indeed, making a profit was seldom stated as an objective of any of the stations.
Source: Preston (2001)
Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector

A recent study by SPC (Gillett, 2016) attempted to quantify the fishery-related benefits received by PNG and other Pacific Island countries. The study gave the available information on the contribution of fishing to GDP, exports, government revenue, employment and nutrition. Unless otherwise noted, the information in this section is from that study. Role of fisheries in the national economy

Table 12: Official estimates of fishing contribution to GDP in 2006

  USD millions
Fishing: Market component 126.9
Fishing: Non-market component 22.4
Total fishing 149.3
Total PNG GDP 5 521.8
Fishing as % of PNG GDP 2.7%
Source: National Statistics Office, unpublished data

The SPC study examined the official methodology and, using its independent estimate of the value of fisheries production, re-estimated the fishing contribution to GDP as being USD 285.1 million for 2014. Although there is not yet an official GDP estimate for PNG for 2014, IMF estimated that the PNG GDP in 2014 was USD 16.8 billion. Using that figure, the 2014 re-estimated fishing contribution was about 1.7 percent of GDP in 2014.

It is estimated that PNG received about USD 85 million in access fees for foreign fishing in 2014. Access fees represented about 1.7 percent of government revenue for that year.

FAO estimated that total exports of fish and fishery products in 2014 were worth USD 137.3 million (Part 1 of this profile). The SPC study estimated the value of fishery exports to be USD 96.8 million in 2013 and USD 134.6 million in 2014. That equates to 1.8 percent and 1.6 percent of the value of all exports from PNG in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

PNG’s most important fishery export commodity is tuna. A recent study (FFA, 2017) examined PNG’s tuna exports by destination market (Table 13).

Table 13: PNG tuna exports (USD millions)

  2012 2013 2014 2015
EU 151 181 141 120
Japan 10 4.1 5.4 4.0
Thailand 32 8.5 18 64
USA 5.7 5.6 0.21 0
Total 198.7


164.61 188
Source: FFA (2017)
Food security

Preston (2001) summarized older information on fish consumption in PNG:

  • Most documents and reports on nutrition in PNG focus on agriculture and animal husbandry and pay little attention to fish. Nevertheless, fish play an important role in food security, particularly in certain areas. On average, Papua New Guineans were estimated to have consumed 10 kg of fresh, frozen or dried fish per capita. Urban dwellers had higher rates of per capita consumption than rural dwellers.
  • In addition to fresh fish and seafood, tinned fish is an important source of dietary protein for many people. On average, Papua New Guineans consumed 3 kg/capita of tinned fish, valued at PGK 63 million, in 1996. Again, urban dwellers consumed more per capita than rural people (7 kg as against 2 kg), but their consumption had a lower total value.
  • Most of the fish and seafood consumed in PNG is domestically produced, including tinned fish. After accounting for seafood imports and exports, the apparent per capita seafood consumption6 has been estimated by Preston (2000) to lie between 18.2 kg per year and 24.9 kg per year.
  • Together, fresh and tinned fish provide a small but important source of high-quality protein in the diet of Papua New Guineans. Fresh fish provides about 1.1 percent of the average calorific intake of the average Papua New Guinean (0.9 percent in rural areas and 2.3 percent in urban areas), while tinned fish provides an average of 0.6 percent (0.5 percent in rural areas, 1.4 percent for urban dwellers).
Bell et al., (2009) used information from household income and expenditure surveys (HIES) conducted between 2001 and 2006 to estimate patterns of fish consumption in Pacific Island countries. The HIES were designed to enumerate consumption based on both subsistence and cash acquisitions. For PNG, annual per capita fish consumption (whole weight equivalent) was 28.1 kg in urban areas (fresh fish made up 76 percent of this amount) and 10.2 kg in rural areas (77 percent fresh fish).

The SPC PROCFish programme did survey work at four sites in PNG (Friedman et al., 2008), including estimations of per capita fish consumption. The results are shown in Table 14.

Table 14: Fishery product consumption at PROCFish sites (kg/person/year)

VillageFresh fish consumptionInvertebrate consumptionCanned fish consumption
Average across the four sites33.777.026.75
Source: Friedman et al. (2008)

(6) Apparent consumption is the composite of domestic production (subsistence and commercial) plus imports, less exports.

Three reports have summarized participation in PNG’s subsistence fisheries. Although those studies use data from the 1990s, it is unlikely that the circumstances have changed significantly.

  • UNDP (1994) indicates that the coastal fishing population (those who are involved in some fishing activity at least once a week) numbers about 120 000. People involved in freshwater fishing (those who do some fishing at least once per week) number somewhat less than 125 000.
  • Preston (2001) summarizes much of what has been written on the subject in recent years: “Despite the widespread nature of subsistence fishing, in many instances it is sporadic, as most food production continues to be derived from agriculture. Nevertheless, a large number of people, estimated at somewhere between 250 000 and 500 000, participate in the coastal subsistence fishery. The 1990 census estimated that 130 963 households, which is 23 percent of all rural households in the country, were engaged in catching fish (both marine and freshwater fishing). Of these households, 60 percent said they caught fish for home consumption only, while 40 percent caught fish both for food and for sale. A significant proportion of households were involved in fishing in all provinces except those in the highlands. The highest proportion of fishing households occurred in Milne Bay (14.3 percent of households), East Sepik (11.3 percent) and Madang (10.0 percent).”
  • Avalos (1995) comments on the gender aspect of participation in PNG’s subsistence fisheries: “Women’s role in fishing is much larger than is generally acknowledged. According to the Women’s Sector Review, studies have shown that women catch at least 25 percent of the subsistence catch, or more if the crab catch is added. Furthermore, they are dominant in the processing stage of small-scale fisheries and contribute to the marketing of fish where the husband is involved in catching.”
The number of people employed in small-scale commercial fishing in PNG has never been adequately surveyed – and many of the current estimates are at least partially based on a UNDP fisheries sector study in the late 1980s. Diffey (2005), using several sources, summarized the current state of knowledge: “In 1989, UNDP estimated that PNG had about 2 000 coastal village communities with populations of about 500 000 people. Of these, it was estimated that 120 000 were involved in regular fishing activity at least once a week and that there were between 2 000 and 4 000 part-time artisanal fishers. These figures are confirmed by the 1990 population census, with the National Statistics Office estimating that, of 131 000 coastal rural households, 23 percent (30 000) were engaged in catching fish with 60 percent fishing purely for subsistence consumption and 40 percent for both food and for sale.”

NFA’s corporate statement (NFA, 2015) mentions the employment that it has helped create:

Within the last 14 years, NFA has accomplished fisheries development and infrastructure, impact projects, processing plants, aquaculture developments, research facilities, capacity building and international fisheries cooperation/agreements. For the fisheries sector alone, this is a massive milestone achievement for PNG, creating employment for more than 30 000 Papua New Guineans and providing income earning opportunities of nearly PGK 10 million a year to ordinary Papua New Guineans.

The PNG tuna industry is a large employer, in terms of both processing and fishing. Box 8 summarizes employment in the tuna-processing industry.

Box 8: Employment in PNG tuna processing

The largest segment of employment of PNG nationals in the tuna sector is in tuna processing. Much of the impetus in fostering tuna industry development in PNG has come from recognition of the need for increased employment in a country with chronic unemployment, pervasive underemployment and dismal development indicators. Various estimates have stated the level of direct employment provided by tuna processing plants in the country during the period 2011–2012 as being from 5 800 to nearly 7 000 people. A 2012 report gave the total as around 6 700, 98 percent of whom were PNG nationals.

Taking stated production levels and employment for the three canneries, it is estimated that for daily production of up to around 150 tons (the average maximum processed so far by any one facility) an average of 20 to 24 employees are required for each ton of tuna processed.

The labour-intensive nature of work within tuna processing facilities and difficult working conditions (i.e. standing for long periods each day, working in hot/damp conditions), results in canneries actively seeking young, fit workers with an emphasis on those between 18 to 35 years of age. The maximum age for production-line workers in PNG is said to be around 45.

In July 2014 a new minimum wage requirement became effective in PNG. The new rate is pegged at K3.20 (US$1.17 in March, 2015). It is estimated that the total annual gross wages that will be paid under the new requirement is on the order of K35 million to K40 million (US$12.8 million to US$14.6 million).

Experience in large industrial tuna processing investments in PNG so far (RD, SSTC, Frabelle, Majestic) demonstrates that access to PNG’s tuna resources is the main driver behind investment. Companies investing in the PNG tuna industry do so to achieve core business interests, and this includes investing to secure long-term access to resources. In the past all companies have limited production costs by reducing the percentage of catch processed in PNG and by keeping wages low. This keeps them competitive in the global industry, which in turn shapes the nature of tuna-based development in PNG. New requirements to process greater amounts of catch within PNG will test the viability of processors, some of which are already calling for additional government support to offset their higher costs of doing business in the country.

Source: McCoy et al. (2015)

FFA has a programme that collects data on tuna-related employment in a standard form. According to FFA (2015), a total of 9 312 people from PNG were employed in the tuna industry in 2014 (Table 15).

Table 15: Tuna-related employment in PNG, 2009–2014 (number of people employed)

Processing and ancillary5 7835 6005 9626 6407 0007 536
Local crew1 1021 1021 1531 5091 7761 776
Total6 8856 7027 1158 1498 7769 312
Source: FFA (2015)

The number of tuna-related jobs in PNG (Table 15) can be viewed from regional and national perspectives. Across the Pacific Island region, in 2014 a total of 17 663 people were employed as crew on tuna vessels or in tuna processing and ancillary work (FFA, 2015). Tuna industry employment in PNG (9 312 from the above table) represents 52.7 percent of regional tuna employment.
Rural development

Rural fisheries development projects have included trials and promotion of various designs of fishing boats and fishing gear and methods. Several initiatives have been taken to introduce or adapt exotic fishing techniques or technology to the PNG situation, and to expose local fishers to these innovations with the aim of improving the productivity, economic efficiency, safety or comfort of fishing operations. The success of these efforts has been mixed. Constraints include high investment costs and generally high opportunity costs. Preston (2001) states that despite their initial curiosity about innovative ideas, fishers are by nature conservative and prefer to stay with tried and familiar methods wherever possible. In a society as traditional as PNG’s, this conservatism might be expected to be even stronger than in some other countries.

Barclay and Kinch (2013) comment on the development of coastal commercial fisheries in PNG and the Solomon Islands (Box 9).

Box 9: Development of coastal commercial fisheries in PNG and the Solomon Islands

From the 1970s, governments and aid donors started projects to provide infrastructure, equipment and/or training for rural fishers to kick-start commercial food fisheries. Most of these activities, however, collapsed soon after the withdrawal of support from government or the funding agencies. The types of support given in the projects have also changed somewhat over the decades, partly due to lessons learned from prior projects, and partly in response to changing policy directions in aid, particularly the shift in emphasis from government provision of extension services to a focus on enabling private-sector-driven development through partnerships with village fishers and established fisheries businesses.

Considering all the investment, why have cash-earning food fisheries not taken off in most rural coastal and island areas to date? The main reason would appear to be that such fisheries are usually not profitable without high external inputs. Unlike high-value, easy-to-store-and-transport shells and dried marine products, fresh, chilled and frozen fish have low value to weight and are tricky to store and transport in good condition. The costs and difficulties involved in getting fish from rural areas out to markets, and getting fuel and mechanical repairs into rural coastal areas, usually outweigh the prices fetched by the fish. When the project funding stops, therefore, the fisheries stop soon after.

Source: Modified from Barclay and Kinch (2013)
Trends, issues and development

Constraints and opportunities

Major constraints for the fisheries sector include the following:

  • Small-scale fishers have great difficulty in economically accessing the relatively abundant offshore fishery resources.
  • There are considerable difficulties associated with marketing fishery products from the remote areas where abundance is highest to the urban areas where the marketing opportunities are greatest. Costly and protracted experience has shown that the value and volume of production from coastal fisheries is insufficient to cover the high cost of establishing and running fish-handling, distribution and marketing infrastructure.
  • The costs of both inbound and outbound freight from PNG are high.
  • To some degree, tuna processing in PNG is leveraged by the country’s preferential access to European markets – but that preferential access is being eroded.
  • The low wages paid in tuna-processing plants (which operate in a highly competitive international environment) may be insufficient to meet the expectations/needs of the workforce.
  • PNG was ranked 133 out of 189 economies for ease of doing business in 2015 by the World Bank. PNG ranks comparatively poorly on many factors including starting a business (130), dealing with construction permits (141), getting credit (165), trading across borders (138), enforcing contracts (181) and resolving insolvency (141).
Opportunities in PNG’s fisheries sector include:

  • the extensive tuna resources of its EEZ and archipelagic waters;
  • development of the Pacific Maritime Industrial Zone in Madang, which involves tuna canneries, tuna lining plants and vessel servicing in a scheme that requires foreign vessels operating in PNG and some other Pacific Island countries to deliver tuna to a marine industrial park located near Madang;
  • encouraging more offloading of offshore fisheries catches for domestic consumption in PNG;
  • development of the relatively under-exploited coastal resources of the country by “piggy-backing” on the industrial offshore fisheries infrastructure;
  • development of aquaculture in the highlands in such a way that it does not require subsidies in perpetuity.
Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies

PNG’s new development policy, as outlined in Vision 2050, is premised on the important and mutually reinforcing roles of economic growth, human development and environmental management, and is based on seven strategic focus areas or ‘pillars of development’. The ‘ideal’ of Vision 2050 is that PNG develops and builds a solid and sustainable economic foundation based on renewable sectors. These renewable sectors are agriculture, forestry, ecotourism and fisheries (SPC, 2013).

The most up-to-date source of government policies and development strategies in the fisheries sector is the NFA Corporate Plan 2008–2012. Important points are:

  • the Domestication Policy, which encourages the full participation of PNG citizens and PNG-based companies in the development of commercial fisheries. The policy aspires to have citizens actively participate in all aspects of fishing, from harvesting and post harvesting to downstream processing and value-adding;
  • the government’s “development framework” for fisheries which promotes:
  • preferential – but not necessarily protected – access for national operators dependent on increasing participation by nationals;
  • active consultation with industry to consider its interests when developing policy;
  • an awareness programme promoting industry activities and potential;
  • working with other regulators to remove impediments to efficient operation;
  • provision of marketing and resource information;
  • training for operators on planning and managing their businesses well;
  • provision of a range of practical training programmes to provide skilled labour for the industry through the National Fisheries College;
  • increasing restrictions on direct foreign employment where skilled nationals are available.
The National Tuna Fishery Management and Development Plan gives some indication of government policies and strategies for the offshore fisheries:

To achieve the aims of this Plan the following objectives have been identified:(a) Increased domestication of tuna industries. (b) Building fisheries businesses. (c) Improved fisheries access agreements. (d) Enhanced regional cooperative arrangements. (e) Increased social benefits. (f) Improved harvest strategies. (g) Increased market and trade opportunities. (h) Sustainability certification and price premiums. (i) Increased control over fishing in PNG fisheries management area. (j) Increased use of rights-based approaches. (k) Increased capacity to realize commercial opportunities. (l) Actively combatting IUU activities. (m) Implementing a full and thorough catch documentation regime. (n) Applying technology and tools for comprehensive near real-time management. (o) Implementing user-pays policy to cost recover management. (p) Provide direct and indirect opportunities to the PNG population to both participate in, and benefit from, economic development.

Another indication of PNG’s policies and strategies for the offshore fisheries is given in NFA’s statement to the WCPFC:

PNG is focused on building its domestic tuna industry to an extent where the generated revenue can offset that currently obtained from bilateral access fees. The government’s main objective is to maximize the benefits from tuna resources to citizens and promote the involvement of nationals in the industry. A growth in the industry would provide an increase in employment opportunities, increased foreign exchange earnings for the country, and direct and indirect spin-off benefits among other benefits of value-adding to tuna resources (NFA, 2016).

At their March 2012 summit, the leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) which comprises Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, agreed to develop a roadmap for the protection of inshore fisheries (Box 10). That roadmap gives some insight into PNG’s future policies and strategies for inshore fisheries management.

Box 10: Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) roadmap for inshore fisheries

The “Melanesian Spearhead Group Roadmap for Inshore Fisheries Management and Sustainable Development 2015–2024” is a management framework and subregional roadmap for sustainable inshore fisheries developed by the MSG Secretariat in cooperation with representatives of the fisheries departments of member countries and with the technical assistance of SPC. The regional roadmap provides overarching guidance for MSG members and enumerates the actions they have agreed to take to address the management of inshore fisheries in Melanesia.

The vision of the roadmap is “sustainable inshore fisheries, well managed using community-based approaches that provide long-term economic, social, ecological and food security benefits to our communities”.

The objectives of the road map are: 1. Development of an effective policy, legislation and management framework for the management of inshore resources, in accordance with other relevant international agreements, to empower coastal communities to manage their marine resources. 2. Education, awareness raising and the provision of information on the importance and management of inshore fisheries. 3. Capacity building to sustainably develop and manage inshore resources with particular reference to experience in the MSG members. 4. Adequate resources to support inshore fisheries management and best available science and research. 5. Secure long-term economic and social benefits to coastal communities from the sustainable use of inshore resources. 6. Establishment of effective collaboration with stakeholders and partners. 7. Restoration and maintenance of beche-de-mer stocks to maximize long-term economic value to coastal communities.

The roadmap was adopted by the leaders of Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in June 2015.

Source: SPC (2013)

The Fishing Industry Association of PNG is involved in fisheries policies and development strategies. The association is an important force in national fisheries policies through its representation on the NFA Board. According to its website (http://www.pngfia.org.pg/), “FIA’s core business objective is to deliver a cohesive and cost-effective service to its members and assist in pursuing best ways to improve the profitability and sustainability of the fishing and associated industries. FIA will attain this by strategically addressing fishing and seafood industry development issues comparable to global standards.”
Research, education and trainingResearch

The Fisheries Act mandates NFA “to operate research facilities aimed at the assessment of fish stocks and their commercial potential for marketing”. At NFA, the Fisheries Management Business Group (one of seven business groups in NFA) is charged with “facilitating required research for the effective development and management of PNG’s fisheries”.

The results of many previous research programmes in the country are given in a bibliography of PNG’s aquatic resources (Kailola, 2003) and profiles of its fisheries (Kailola, 1995). Past research has mostly been carried out by NFA, its predecessor agency (the Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources), the University of PNG, SPC, FFA, FAO, and agencies based in Australia, Japan, New Zealand and USA.

In the past few years, the strategy for fisheries research has been re-oriented to focus primarily on obtaining information needed to refine fishery management plans. This approach involves making greater use of partnerships with local and overseas research agencies, NGOs, private institutions and donors.

An important development in PNG fisheries research is the Nago Island Mariculture and Research Station. Box 11 describes the establishment of the station.

Box 11: NFA’s Nago Island Mariculture and Research Station

Nago Island is a small uninhabited islet located just off the town of Kavieng in New Ireland Province. It is the site of the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) Nago Island Mariculture and Research Station, which is currently under construction. NFA has secured 11 hectares of land connected by a jetty. The station has a hatchery, algal laboratory and “wet” laboratory and indoor and outdoor larval tanks and raceways, with replicates and free spacing set aside for experiments. There is a separate area for quarantine. There are also offices and two resident houses onsite for staff. Because the island is uninhabited, the facility will be fully self-sufficient in providing its energy and water needs. Nago Island also has tourism potential and NFA intends to sub-lease part of its land to Nusa Resort to build some tourist accommodation. Current project ideas include trochus community restocking trials, cage farming rabbitfish, introducing Kappaphycus seaweed, mariculturing marine ornamentals and mabe pearl culture trials. 
Source: Ponia (2009)

One of the major research projects is the PNG Inland Aquaculture Research Project, which began in August 2015. The project seeks to evaluate the socio-economic impacts of fish farming, improve fish husbandry technologies and develop low-cost feeding and fertilizer strategies (https://www.facebook.com/pg/inlandaqua2014).
Education and training

The most important institution in PNG for education related to fisheries is the National Fisheries College. The College provides training in:

  • commercial fisheries, including courses for skippers and deckhands
  • post-harvest aspects of fisheries
  • on-vessel observing
  • business aspects of fisheries.
The National Fisheries College is a branch of NFA. It is located in Kavieng in the north of the country, but some of its courses are given in other areas of PNG. The College has been incorporated into a new NFA entity, the Institute of Sustainable Marine Resources.

Several other institutions in PNG offer training relevant to the fisheries sector:

  • The PNG Marine School in Madang provides more advanced and officer-level vocational training for merchant shipping
  • The University of Papua New Guinea offers degree courses in marine biology and other relevant scientific disciplines through its main campus, as well as via its Marine Research Station at Motupore Island.
  • The University of Technology at Lae offers a food technology degree.
  • The PNG Institute of Public Administration offers accountancy, management and other training programmes relevant to the fisheries sector.

Training courses, workshops and attachments are frequently organized by the regional organizations: the Pacific Community (SPC) in New Caledonia and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) in the Solomon Islands. Subject matter has included such diverse topics as fish-quality grading, stock assessment, seaweed culture, fisheries surveillance, and on-vessel observing. Courses and workshops are also given by NGOs and bilateral donors.
Foreign aid

SPC (2013) states that PNG has been the recipient of many fisheries development projects over the last three decades, with several of these instituted by various aid agencies to develop coastal fisheries in PNG. Such projects include:

  • the Coastal Fisheries Development Program’s Baimaru and Milne Bay Fisheries Authorities, funded by a series of donors including the International Food and Agricultural Development’s Artisanal Fisheries Programme;
  • the MOMASE (Morobe-Madang-Sepik) Coastal Fisheries Development Project, funded by the German Development Corporation;
  • numerous, smaller fisheries projects funded by UNDP.
In the last decade, PNG was also the recipient of two large, multi-sectoral programmes:

  • The European Union-funded Rural Coastal Fisheries Development Project (RCFDP). To achieve its overall aim of “poverty alleviation” by “increasing rural family incomes through greater participation in sustainable commercial production and improved marketing of marine products”, the RCFDP attempted to develop the deep-water snapper fishery in PNG.
  • The Asian Development Bank’s loan-funded Coastal Fisheries Management and Development Project (CFMDP). The CFMDP was also premised on “poverty reduction” in rural areas by increasing or preventing further decline in the incomes of coastal and island communities. This was to be done by promoting improved management of resources (in areas currently overfished, or threatened with overfishing) and by creating sustainable earning and employment opportunities.

Institutional framework

The Fisheries Act provided for the establishment of the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) to replace the former Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources. The NFA, which has a more commercial orientation than its predecessor, began operating in 1995. It was mandated to manage PNG’s fisheries resources under the Fisheries Management Act (1998). In 2001, NFA was completely reorganized and re-staffed and strengthened, with staff numbers dropping by two thirds.

The Fisheries Management (Amendment) Act 2015 changed the composition of the NFA Board. It now has nine members, who represent government, the fishing industry, resource owners and NGOs. The National Executive Council appoints the Chair of the Board, which is required to meet at least once every three months.

Access fees from foreign fleets currently form the bulk of the revenues received and managed by NFA. Other income sources include licence fees from other operators, assistance from donors, and penalties arising from prosecutions under the Fisheries Management Act.

The functions of NFA, as given in the National Fisheries Authority Corporate Plan 2008–2012, are to:

  • manage the fisheries within the fisheries waters in accordance with this Act and taking into account the international obligations of Papua New Guinea in relation to tuna and other highly migratory fish stocks;
  • make recommendations to the Board on the granting of licences and implement any licensing scheme in accordance with this Act;
  • liaise with other agencies and persons, including regional and international organizations and consultants, whether local or foreign, on matters concerning fisheries;
  • operate research facilities aimed at the assessment of fish stocks and their commercial potential for marketing;
  • subject to the Pure Foods Act, the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act, the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff Act and the Exports (Control and Valuation) Act, control and regulate the storing, processing and export of fish and fish products;
  • appraise, develop, implement and manage projects, including trial fishing projects;
  • prepare and implement appropriate public investment programmes;
  • collect data relevant to aquatic resources;
  • act on behalf of the government in relation to any domestic or international agreement relating to fishing or related activities or other related matters to which the independent State of Papua New Guinea is or may become a party;
  • make recommendations on policy regarding fishing and related activities;
  • establish any procedures necessary for the implementation of this Act, including tender procedures; and
  • implement any monitoring, control, and surveillance scheme, including cooperation, agreements with other States or relevant international, regional or subregional organizations in accordance with this Act.
NFA has been structured into the following business groups, each under the leadership of an Executive Manager reporting directly to the NFA Managing Director:

  • Directorate
  • Corporate Services
  • Finance and Accounts
  • Fisheries Management
  • Licensing and Data Management
  • Monitoring, Control and Surveillance
  • Provincial Support and Industry Development
  • Project Management
  • Institute of Sustainable Marine Resources (including the National Fisheries College).
Most of the governments of maritime provinces in PNG have fisheries offices. Those offices receive funding from both NFA and provincial governments to carry out fisheries development and management.

Another institution involved in PNG fisheries is the Fishing Industry Association (FIA), which was formed in January 1991 to provide a formal channel through which fishing-related businesses could voice their ideas, opinions and concerns relating to the development of the sector. FIA membership is drawn from across the fisheries sector, representing a diversity of commercial operations covering sedentary resources, lobsters, prawns, finfish and pelagic species. FIA has been quite outspoken since its formation and has become both respected and influential in the development of fisheries policy in PNG. The Association has successfully lobbied Government for the removal of a range of taxes and levies and the granting of other concessions to the industry. A representative of FIA sits on the National Fisheries Board, as well as on the Governing Council of the National Fisheries College.

Important internet links related to fisheries in PNG include:

  • http://www.fisheries.gov.pg – website of the National Fisheries Authority
  • www.pngfia.org.pg – Information on the Fishing Industry Association of PNG
  • http://www.spc.int/coastfish/en/countries/papua-new-guinea.html – information on PNG fisheries and some SPC reports on PNG fisheries
  • www.ffa.int – information on the regional organization that is primarily involved in the development and management of offshore fisheries
  • www.pnatuna.com – information on the sub-regional, regional organization of eight Pacific Island countries where most of the tuna in the region is harvested
  • www.paclii.org/databases.html – the laws of PNG, including those related to fisheries

The major regional institutions involved with fisheries are the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), located in Honiara and the Pacific Community (SPC) in Noumea. Other players are the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Office in Majuro, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) in Suva, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in Apia, and the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Suva. The characteristics of those institutions are given in Table 16.

Table 16: Pacific Island regional organizations involved in fisheries

  FFA SPC Other regional organizations with fishery involvement
Main area of emphasis Providing management advice on tuna fisheries and increasing benefits to Pacific Island countries from tuna fishing activities. Most aspects of coastal fisheries and scientific research on tuna. Fisheries are only one aspect of SPC’s work programme, which also covers such issues as health, demography, and agriculture.

PNA – subregional grouping of countries where most of the purse seining occurs;

SPREP – environmental aspects of fisheries;

USP – School of Marine Studies (SMS) is involved in a wide range of training;

PIFS – Major political initiatives, some natural resource economics; leads trade negotiations with EU, which have a major fisheries component.

Inter-regional relationships

The FFA/SPC relationship has had ups/downs over the years. It has been most difficult in early 1990s, and tremendous improvement in mid/late 1990s.

An annual colloquium has helped the relationship. Staff who have moved between the two organizations have made a noticeable improvement in understanding.

Much of the success/benefits achieved by FFA/SPC cooperation depend on the personalities of FFA’s Director/Deputy and SPC’s Director of the Division of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems.

At least in theory, all regional organizations come under the umbrella of PIFS. Their activities are coordinated to some degree by the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP), which has a Marine Sector Working Group that meets at least once per year, but is limited by lack of resources for follow-up.

FFA originally provided secretariat services to PNA, but PNA broke away from FFA in 2010. Currently, there are some sensitivities in the relationship – but it appears to be improving.

Main strengths Direct contact with its governing body many times per year results in a high degree of accountability. Mandate of tight focus on tuna eliminates considerable dissipation of effort. Noumea being a pleasant place to work, there is considerable staff continuity. The Oceanic Fisheries Programme often sets the standard for tuna research in the world. Documentation of work is very good.

Because PIFS is under the national leaders, it is considered the premier regional organization.

PNA has achieved considerable success and credibility in such areas as raising access fees, 100 percent observer coverage, eco-certification, high seas closures, and controls on FADs.

USP is centrally located in the region and its SMS has substantial infrastructure.

SPREP has close ties to NGOs active in the marine sector.

Membership Australia and New Zealand, plus Cook Is., FSM, Fiji Kiribati, Marshall Is., Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Is., Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu Includes the major metropolitan countries, all Pacific Island countries, and the French/UK/US territories; the most inclusive of any regional organization.

PNA: Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Is., Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Is. and Tuvalu.

USP: Cook Is., Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Is., Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Is., Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

SPREP: 21 Pacific Island countries and territories, plus Australia, France, New Zealand and USA.

PIFS: same as FFA

Source: Adapted from Gillett (2014)

The Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean entered into force in June 2004, and established the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). PNG is a member of the commission, along with 26 other countries. WCPFC has its headquarters in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, and has held 13 annual meetings to date.

Legal framework

The Fisheries Management Act 1998 defines the role and responsibilities of the National Fisheries Authority. The Act essentially empowers NFA to manage, control and regulate all of PNG’s fishery resources, whether inland, coastal or offshore. Although the Act recognizes and allows for customary uses, rights and traditional resource ownership, it does not in itself empower provincial or lower-level governments to manage fisheries in what they may consider to be their areas of jurisdiction. Such powers may be delegated by the Minister for Fisheries through regulation or promulgation, but this is entirely discretionary.

The Act is 56 pages in length and has nine parts:

Part i PreliminariesPart ii Institutional arrangementsPart iii Fisheries management, conservation and developmentPart iv LicencesPart v Enforcement and observer programmePart vi Jurisdiction, procedure, offences, penalties and liabilityPart vii Administrative proceedingsPart viii EvidencePart ix Miscellaneous

With respect to the details of the Act, its provisions on the functions of NFA are given in section 8 above, and its provisions on the content of fisheries management plans and the objectives of fisheries management in PNG are given in section 4.2 above.

Many of PNG’s fishery management plans, including the following, are formulated as regulations under the Fisheries Management Act:

  • National Beche-de-mer Fishery Management Plan
  • Barramundi Management Plan
  • National Lobster Fisheries Management Plan
  • National Tuna Fishery Management and Development Plan 2014
Apart from the Fisheries Act, there are at least 28 other legislative instruments currently in force and relevant to the fisheries sector. Most important of these is the Organic Law on Provincial and Local-level Governments of July 1995, which gives provincial governments responsibility for fisheries and other development activities and the provision of basic services. The Organic Law requires that national bodies devolve as many of their functions as possible to the provincial authorities, or carry them out at provincial level. Other relevant legislation includes the environment, maritime zones, shipping and maritime safety acts and regulations, and laws governing business and company management.


Map courtesy of SPC

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